Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 198

Earlier this week, we featured one of Christopher's lovely vintage Parker 'Duofold' fountain pens on our blog. When I posted his review, I forgot to mention that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the 'Duofold', a classic fountain pen that made a big splash with its bold two-colour (bright red and black) design when it hit the market in 1921.

A very brief history of vintage 'Duofolds':
Early 'Duofold' fountain pens were initially full-sized button-fillers made of red and black hard rubber, but smaller 'Duofold' models (e.g. the "Duofold Jr" & "Lady Duofold" ringtop) quickly followed in 1922. Around 1925, Parker switched to using celluloid material (Parker's name for the DuPont celluloid they used was called ‘Permanite’) for the 'Duofold' and subsequently, more colours were added to the lineup. In 1929, the 'Duofold' was redesigned with tapered ends and dubbed the 'Streamlined Duofold'. Eventually Parker stopped producing the 'Duofold' in the U.S, but production of the pen continued in the U.K and Canada well into the 1940s.

The modern 'Duofold;
The year 1987 saw the arrival of the first modern 'Duofold'. It was called the Duofold "Centennial" model (named in anticipation of Parker's 100th anniversary in 1988) and was followed by the slightly-smaller-but-noticeably-thinner Duofold "International" model in 1989. Both models were initially produced at Parker's factory in Newhaven, U.K, the site of Parker's headquarters. The earliest examples were made in three colours - black, marbled blue and marbled maroon. Parker took a great deal of pride in the production of their newly-resurrected flagship model (from "It was to be the most modern fountain pen to date. With a ten day computer-controlled manufacturing process, and made from over 130 components, it was subjected to 100 quality tests."

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to buy a used "International" model from Doug Vicary (a longtime pen seller on Pentrace who posts as "Doug") for $145 USD including shipping. Meet my new Parker 'Duofold' "International" fountain pen....

(photos by Maja ~ please click on images to enlarge)

The pen & its original packaging. The presentation case is one of the heaviest non-wood cases I've ever owned.


 It does a great job of cushioning this little beauty, though, which arrived in excellent condition, as promised...



Data for the Parker 'Duofold' "International fountain pen ca. 2000:
(my model was made in 1997, but it's from the same generation)

Capped Length :                     13.2 cm

Posted Length :                      16.4 cm      

Barrel Length:                       12.4 cm (includes nib length)

Barrel Diameter:                   1.19 cm

Barrel Diam. at threads:     1.09 cm

Pen Weight:                           22.25 grams (with empty cartridge)

(data courtesy of this useful document )

My particular Duofold "International" is a "Mark II", which came out in 1996. It has "MADE IN U.K." very faintly stamped on its barrel (just below the lower barrel ring) and a date code of "IIIP", which indicates it was manufactured in the first quarter of 1997. It was made at Parker's factory in Newhaven, a small ferry port just east of Brighton. In 2010, the Newhaven plant was shut down, and production moved to Nantes, France. Happily, the 'Duofold' writing instrument line is still in active production as of this writing.


Although it's not one of the colourful modern Duofolds, I think it's a very handsome (and well-proportioned) fountain pen, with its classic 'Duofold' styling, iconic Parker 'Arrow" clip, glossy black exterior and shiny 23K gold-plated trim. Like other modern (non-metal-bodied) Duofolds, it was made from a solid block of hand-cast acrylic, and finished by hand.


You can use it posted, but it's long enough (for my hands, anyway) to use without its cap on. Its section does taper down from the barrel threads, so that's something to keep in mind if you grip your pens further down the section (vs. at the barrel threads like I do, in this case). 


I love the design of its two-tone 18K gold "banner" nib (which was only made from 1993 to 2006). The nib (a Fine) has zero flex to it---it's been described as nail-like--but I wasn't surprised about this as I'd done some research before purchasing the pen from Doug. 

 Note: The nibs on the Duofold "International" models (like mine) are markedly smaller than the nibs on the larger "Centennial" models, so that's one way to tell the two pen models apart. If you don't have the luxury of seeing the two models side-by-side before buying one online, there's a video on YouTube with a very handy tip on determining which model you're looking at (skip ahead to the video's 5:30 mark if you just want to hear the pertinent information). 

Another look at the presentation box, which came with an instruction booklet, as well as a Parker "Platinum Club" membership booklet (more on that below). Modern 'Duofolds' are all cartridge/converter-fillers, but mine didn't come with its converter (this was noted in the sales description). The box did contain two Parker ink cartridges with the Parker name in gold letters on them - classy!

As a member of the Parker "Platinum Club", you were entitled to: a complimentary nib exchange (with your choice of fourteen different nibs, including ten non-standard nibs such as italics & obliques), a worldwide full lifetime warranty (ie. for the lifetime of the original owner), and free annual cleanings and servicing (you had to ship the pen to Janesville, Wisconsin, but it would be sent back with a free ink refill pack -- membership has its privileges, lol).

Membership in Parker's "Platinum Club" also entitled you to a complimentary monogrammed cap tassie. I love the coin-like Duofold "banner" tassie (which complements its "banner" nib) that came with my pen ... and apparently many other Duofold owners did too, because I couldn't find a single photo of a 'Duofold' with a monogrammed tassie online! Go figure.

To mark the 100th birthday of its flagship pen, Parker recently released a limited edition (LE) set of three 'Duofold' fountain pens in the three original colours - "Big Red", Black, and Lapis Lazuli. The price? The equivalent of $1200 CAD per pen, and a lot more for the set. Non-LE Duofolds cost considerably less...but they're still quite pricey, so if you want to save yourself some money, try to track down the earlier versions made in the late 1980s/90s/early 2000s. 

If you want to try a vintage Parker 'Duofold' fountain pen, there are plenty to be found on the secondary market (eBay, etsy,,, et. al.). Keep in mind that unless they've been restored, early 'Duofold' pens are going to need a new ink sac. Yes, that restoration service adds to the final cost of the pen, but I think a vintage 'Duofold' deserves to be in every fountain pen lover's collection :)

~Photos and review by Maja ~

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